The term “Magical Thinking” is defined by the Free Online Medical Dictionary as: irrational belief that one can bring about a circumstance or event by thinking about it or wishing for it.
You can find a better definition of Magical Thinking on one of the first pages of Burrough’s book. Burroughs uses the classic childhood example of “step on a crack and break your mother’s back”.
No rational person really believes that stepping on a crack in the sidewalk will cause their mother to have back problems. But, little kids still avoid the cracks, and sometimes, this behavior continues on into adulthood.
Magical thinking is hard to stop, especially when life gets rough, and you feel like you have no other form of control.
Magical Thinking: True Stories is a collection of short story memoirs. All are little pieces of Burrough’s life, in somewhat chronological order. You won’t find any of these stories in any of his other books. This is stuff readers haven’t come across before. There are twenty-seven stories in all, giving the readers twenty-seven little windows into Burrough’s life, and into his head.
My favorite little memoir in this book is called “Debby’s Requirements”. It’s about a horrible person named Debby, whom Burroughs had the misfortune of hiring as a housekeeper. Things escalate beyond what one would ever expect, and it has an absolutely perfect ending.
“Vanderbilt Genes” is about a visit to “The Breakers”, an estate owned by the Vanderbilt family. Burroughs goes there with his parents, and is convinced that he was kidnapped at birth, and really supposed to be part of the Vanderbilt family. I think all adults who had horrible childhoods, in dysfunctional families, can relate to this one.
“Ass Burger” is a story about Burrough’s brother, who, it turns out, has Asperger’s Syndrome. Of course, when they were children, no one knew what to call what his brother was. Asperger’s Syndrome is something that seems to be “in the news” a lot lately, as more and more people figure out that their odd, brilliant, loved one has this syndrome. My brother has it, and I found myself nodding my head at the similarities between my brother and Burrough’s brother. Fascinating story.
“Telemarketing Revenge” features Burrough’s acidic wit as he avenges himself against telemarketers, and their constant phone calls. I found it absolutely hysterical, and was amazed by his creative plan.
“Key Worst” is dark and funny at the same time, as Burroughs describes the horrible people he is forced to share a glass bottom boat ride with in Key West, Florida. It’s one of those stories that makes you laugh, and then feel guilty for laughing. And, of course, there is a story called “Magical Thinking”, where Burroughs and his friend share some magical thinking experiences.
These are but a few of the little memoir stories contained in Magical Thinking. Some are darker or sadder than others. Some are funnier than others. All are a painfully honest peek into the mind of Augusten Burroughs.